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Left parties in India are facing an identity crisis

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By Amitava Mukherjee

On the eve of elections to five state assemblies including Kerala and West Bengal, the Left parties are now in an identity crisis and have subjected themselves to two opposing pulls from within on the question of an alliance with the Congress.

In a recent article published in a mass-circulation daily, Prakash Karat, the former CPI-M general secretary, has honestly pointed out the self-contradictions that have hamstrung the communist movement of India from its inception. That the Left has now been clamouring for an alliance with the Congress is an outcome of such in-built deficiencies.

At this point, recourse to classical theories will serve the Left no purpose. Theoretically, communist parties are meant for factory workers but very few leading lights of the Indian communist movement can fit in this category. It is interesting to guess why Prakash Karat chose to do such a scathing introspection at this moment. Is it an attempt on his part to keep himself away from the hullabaloo and the shrill cries for an alliance with the Congress that some leaders of his party are raising?

In the annals of communist literature, this Karat article is exceptional. He has listed metamorphosis of the middle class leading to its inability to relate to Left ideology any more and absence of workers, poor peasants and agricultural labourers in decision making positions as the main detriments in front of his party’s expansion and wide acceptance among the masses.

This deficiency is true not just about the CPI-M. All shades of Indian communist parties are affected by it. However, Karat’s argument has also exposed his limitations. He still has great faith in the middle class. If this faith continues, the future of his party is bleak.

But Karat himself and almost the entire front-ranking leadership of his party are results of this system and it’s unfortunate that the realization about the position of the lower strata of society dawned on him after so many years – most of all after the serious drubbing that his party received from the people of West Bengal in the last assembly elections.

Instead of writing articles in newspapers, if he looks at the composition of his own party’s politburo he will realize that the job of cleansing the Augean Stables must start from the highest policy-making body of his own party.

This incomplete identification with the country’s toiling masses is now finding its manifestation among certain sections of the Left in a mad rush for an electoral alliance with the Congress which had, in fact, ushered in neo-liberal economic policies, a school of thought and practice the Left regards as an anathema.

Although some sections of the media are trying to drum up support for such an alliance, yet the CPI-M stands vertically divided over the issue with the Kerala unit being totally opposed to such an eventuality. Some constituents of the Left Front in West Bengal like the CPI and the Forward Bloc, have also expressed their reservations as they identify the Congress with a neo liberal economy.

It is really open to question whether a Left Front-Congress alliance in West Bengal will be able to deliver the desired result. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the Trinamul Congress had got 39.3 percent of the votes, the Left Front 29.6 percent, the Congress 9.6 percent and the BJP 16.8 percent. The CPI-M’s calculation is that by dint of an alliance with the Congress, it will be able to match the voting percentage of the TMC and thus outsmart Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But there is a serious flaw in this calculation.

Unfortunately for the Congress, the party has very little presence in today’s West Bengal, except in Murshidabad, Malda and South Dinajpur districts, where the party commands more than 30 percent of the votes. But in the remaining 17 districts, the Congress only enjoys around five percent of the votes per district. Will this be of any help to the Left Front in defeating the TMC? The big question remains here.

But an alliance with the Congress in West Bengal is sure to put the CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala in an embarrassing situation. The LDF is now comfortably placed against the Congress-led United Democratic Front(UDF) so far as the coming election is concerned. That is the reason why not only Karat but the entire Kerala lobby of the CPI-M is uncomfortable about any alliance with the Congress as this will rob the Left of the much needed sharp edge in its campaign against the UDF.

By an alliance with the Congress, Left is certain to lose credibility. In his article, Karat castigated neo-liberal economic policies and “family enterprise” like political parties. Congress leaders may vehemently deny the charges, but both the indicators can point towards that party. It will be interesting to watch what answer the CPI-M proffers in the event of an alliance with the Congress.

In its nearly five-year rule in West Bengal, the TMC has not been able to give much good account of itself. If the Kerala model of removal of each ruling combination every five years has any justification, then replacement of the TMC-led dispensation in the next West Bengal assembly election is not undesirable. But any Left Front-Congress combination will be too opportunist in character to achieve anything good.

(IANS)

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.